TEXARKANA, Texas — Pleasant Grove's excellence in the boys basketball program is ultimately a reflection of the hard work of the players and coaches.
Under head coach Dwight McCowan, the Hawks earned a share of the District 15-4A championship with a record of 9-1. Pleasant Grove finished with a 72.7 win percentage with a regular season record of 16-6.
The Hawks had a signature, 60-48, win over district rival Paris back on Jan. 22. For McCowan, the victory was a huge moment for Pleasant Grove's basketball program.
"Our win over Paris at home was a standout victory for us," McCowan said. "We had not beaten Paris in a while, and they have been dominating the district. I felt like it was a changing of the guard kinda thing where they are not running the district anymore. We established that we are a contender."
Senior T'Vondrick Henry has been the main leader for the Hawks and finished the regular season with a team-high average of 24.4 points per game. Henry's resilience has spread throughout the team and has been an x-factor in Pleasant Grove's success.
"We had a couple of tough losses before we came back from Christmas break," McCowan said. "We played a big cross-city game against Arkansas High. They had, what I would call, a historical second and third quarter in which they shot the ball unbelievably well. We could've folded up shop because, in the next game, we lost a heartbreaker to Carthage. We gathered ourselves and got better."
And the Hawks were a lot better, going on a 9-0 run of district games before dropping the last game of the season to Paris. During the string of nine wins, Pleasant Grove outscored opponents by a combined 554-288.
McCowan faced some obstacles early in his coaching career. He tried to get hired on at Marshall High School, straight out of college, but was twice denied. The Hawks defeated Marshall, 69-53, on Dec. 15.
"On a personal note, the win over Marshall meant a lot to me," McCowan said. "I am from Marshall. The first time I applied, they told me that I did not have enough experience. And the second time, they ended up telling me no again.
"I feel like I have moved on to bigger and better things. To go back to Marshall after I have improved in my craft and beat them is nice."
The next step for the Hawks will be defeating Kilgore in their bi-district playoff game, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. at Marshall High School on Thursday. Pleasant Grove is ranked 17th in state in Class 4A, Division II.
"I am pleased with the way our regular season went," McCowan said. "Obviously, there are things we are trying to fix; that is all in the job of getting better.
"I thought our two freshmen would come in and help us a little bit. I was pleasantly surprised with the way both of them picked up the speed and flowed into our system."
Torion Phillips and Ahkari Johnson are the two freshmen who have each been like a sixth man for the Hawks this season. Torion Phillips has even started in some games.
Pleasant Grove seniors include Henry, Matt Angier, Sam Bradshaw, Torey Phillips and Tre Stuart. The goal is to reach state.